Colombia: Protesters occupy church

A peaceful occupation of San Francisco Church in downtown Bogota by hundreds of Afro-Colombians from the country’s western coastal region earlier this month resulted in government concessions on measures affecting the Afro-Colombian communities’ forestry and collective property rights, Weekly News Update on the Americas reported.

The communities’ own proposals will now be included in the debate over a new Forest Law that would give logging multinationals access to nearly 57,000 acres of community property, said community spokesperson Jorge Garcia. He said a Colombian Rural Development Institute resolution to promote business arrangements between the communities and private companies was also reversed because it violates a 1993 law barring privatization of the communities’ collective property. The protesters also demanded control over certification of teachers in their communities and rephrasing of a question on ethnicity in the 2005 general census.

S. Korea: ‘Stressed out’ at work

Layoffs and corporate restructuring in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s has intensified the pressure on South Korea’s white-collar workers, according to a recent survey of over 1,600 salaried workers by the online job portal site Incruit.

Ninety percent said the restructuring had caused their workload to increase sharply, while 55 percent said excessive work was stressing them out and nearly a quarter reported heavy pressure from supervisors.

Over two-thirds said they work two to three hours more per day, while more than three-quarters said they took shorter breaks.

“We stay longer in the office to do more work,” stock analyst Park Sung-tae told The Korea Times. “At the same time we are forced to enroll in language learning centers and job related license programs to stay competitive.” Park added, “No salaried workers have a lifetime employment guarantee these days. I get stressed out when I think about what I will be doing five years from now.”

Africa: Hunger is growing

Some 200 million African people — nearly 20 percent more than in the early 1990s — are undernourished, the International Food Policy Research Institute said in a recent report. “Up to 40 million Africans annually face acute hunger that requires concerted international efforts to prevent widespread starvation,” the Institute said, adding that another 160 million also experience undernourishment as “a permanent characteristic of their lives.”

The report cited armed conflict as a major factor, noting that hunger affects over half the population of countries with ongoing or recent wars. The institute said undernourishment contributes to about 3 million deaths in Africa each year, with a third of African children suffering stunted growth and facing physical and mental challenges because of hunger.

IFPRI said investments in agriculture, nutrition and food security of $251 billion in the next decade could cut the percentage of malnourished children in half.

United Kingdom: Urge anti-bullying law

Around 2 million people have been bullied at work in the past six months, most by managers, the Trades Union Congress said last week. At a London rally, the TUC called for passage of “a new dignity at work bill, which outlaws bullying at work.”

The TUC said a recent survey showed the bully to be a supervisor or manager in three-quarters of incidents, but added that almost half of middle managers have themselves been bullied by their bosses.

“Bullying and the inability of most employers to deal with the growing problem accounts for the loss of some 18 million working days each year,” the TUC said, adding that many victims take sick time and others are forced to change jobs.

Eastern Caribbean: Uniting in uncertain times

Smaller Caribbean communities agreed last week to deepen their integration process to “sustain the sub-region in times of uncertainty,” Prensa Latina said.

In a statement after its Nov. 6-8 meeting in Anguilla, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States emphasized the need for greater unity among its members’ fragile economies.

Acting OECS chair and Santa Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony said the world economy was more hostile than it had ever been during the 24 years since the organization was founded. He especially cited loss of protected status for basic regional products like bananas and sugar.

In the wake of massive job losses, the OECS is pressing the World Trade Organization and the European Union for more protective measures.

Representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Santa Lucia, Anguilla, Granada, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the British Virgin Islands.

World Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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